Sermon Details

What Is It?

May 24, 2020
Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville, IN, invites you to join us as we worship in this time of SARS-CoV-2. Today's virtual service features Rev. John Van Nuys leading worship and preaching the sermon, "What is it?". The Scripture for today is Exodus 16:1-4a. With Trey Rogers accompanying, Lani Rogers sings "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". Jennie Fights Swick sings "God Will Take Care of You". The postlude, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is played by Alan White and photographed by B. Brookie White.
(1) The Israelites set out from Elim and came to the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, 45 days after they had left Egypt. (2) The Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, saying (3) “If only we’d died in Egypt, when we ate our fill of bread; for you’ve led us into this wilderness to starve to death.” (4) Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day… (12) I’ve heard the Israelites’ complaining; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“
(13) That evening quails came and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. (14) When the dew lifted, there was a flaky substance, as fine as frost. (15) The Israelites said, “What is it?” Moses said, “It’s the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”
– Exodus 16:1-4a, 12-15

I love swimming. When I damaged my shoulder, I thought swimming was out. However, a surgeon said he’d repair it. After surgery, came months of physical therapy. Then I could swim one lap. I could add one lap per week. Getting where I wanted to be took a year.

My anticipated easy win was actually a long, hard-fought victory. When the quick miracle of your hopes becomes longer, harder, and more elusive than you imagined, it’s dispiriting. Like how we feel now.

We thought an inconvenient, but quick quarantine would flatten the curve and then we’d get back to business as usual. Back to school by spring break. Back to church by Easter. Back to normal by now. But that’s not happening.

That’s the Israelites’ situation in our scripture. God had defeated pharaoh, freeing the Israelites from slavery. Good news: They’re out of Egypt. And bad news: They’re out of Egypt. They’re beginning to realize that the easy, instant win they thought God had given them was actually a long, hard march to an eventual victory that they needed to make. So, the Israelites complained: “Moses, we’re hungry! We’re gonna die – because of you!”

So God said: “Don’t worry, Moses. I’ve got this covered. I will cover the camp with quail. I will make it rain bread. That’ll take the heat off you and put the focus on me. Folks will know I am God and they can count on me.”

And God came through: At twilight, quail! And at dawn, when the dew lifted, there was fine, white, flaky frost. And the Israelites said: “Man hu” which is Hebrew, meaning “What is it?” If you Anglicize man hu you get manna. But what the Hebrews got was a bunch of “What the heck is this stuff?” To which Moses answered, “It’s bread! Eat up!”
“Firstly, Moses, this “bread” doesn’t look like bread. We don’t need bread. We need a bus ticket back to the Promised Land. Get God to give us express tickets. Hit fast forward to the happy ending!”

Sometimes the only way out is through. The only way out of the misery of middle school is to go through middle school. You can’t skip it. You gotta do it. Sometimes the only way out is through. Like this pandemic, the only way out is through. To keep doing what we have to do. That’s the only way. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: God will care for us every step of the way. What God did for the Israelites, God will do for us: Give us our daily bread; our daily batch of “What is it?” so we can live.

What has God been giving you during COVID-19 to keep you together, body and spirit? A caring word from a neighbor. A daily walk outside. A loving pet who cheers you up. A laugh. A kindness. A prayer. These are mighty blessings packaged in daily serving-sized portions of grace and life. This is the humble, holy manna; the heavenly means by which we are fed, encouraged, and given strength we need today to live. And tomorrow? The miracle repeats: Daily bread for the journey given again and again for us to make it through this time one step at a time; one day at a time, intimately cared for by our loving God, who continues to lead us all into Life.

One of my Rushville congregants worked in Shelbyville. She was terrified of winter driving. But she found an unfailing way to make the trip when it was hazardous. She’d wait for the snowplow. She’d wait in Shelbyville until the snowplow headed to Rushville: She said, “Some impatient people think the snowplow is slow, but not me. I wait for it, and I follow it. It keeps me safe and takes me home. Wintery driving doesn’t terrify me anymore. I just follow the plow.”

We’ve got a Plow making a way for us as well. That way is strewn with manna. There is bread for the journey. What is it? Open your eyes and see.

In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:

“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”

If you pray this prayer, contact a pastor. They’ll show you how to live for Christ with purpose, peace, and joy. Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” That definitely includes YOU!